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With omicron in Colorado, ‘last thing that we want is another wave,’ governor says


(NEW YORK) — Despite two cases being detected in his state, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis reiterated he’s not yet alarmed by the emergence of the omicron variant.

“We always wish that we had next week’s information this week, next month’s information this month, but we don’t,” Polis told ABC’s This Week co-anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday. “I think what we’re all looking for at this point is what characteristics the omicron variant has that are different.”

Polis announced his state’s first case of the omicron variant on Thursday in a person from Arapahoe County who had recently returned from South Africa. She was vaccinated and eligible for a booster.

At the time, Polis said during a news conference he was “not terribly alarmed.”

But experts say that early research shows that omicron is more transmissible, Raddatz pointed out to Polis.

“It’s clearly a very different variant,” Polis said. “It’s different than the whole branch of the viral family that led to the delta area, and as indicated in your introduction, we’re just recovering from a wave of that. There are some states that are going up, ours is going down — has been for a week or two — but we’re just recovering from the delta variant.”

With omicron being a variant of concern and with it most likely having a higher transmission rate than other COVID-19 variants, Raddatz questioned Polis on the possibility of having to push off elective surgeries in case omicron continues to spread throughout Colorado.

The governor reaffirmed his stance on waiting to get more answers about the variant.

“The last thing that we want is another wave,” Polis said. “Now, again, I think what we’re all waiting to see is how virulent the omicron variant is, how effectively it can break through prior immunization and how contagious it is, and those three factors will really determine the spread of the virus.”

The governor also stressed on This Week that the omicron variant level of community transmission in Colorado is currently low.

“We have a few isolated cases, but we do regular wastewater screening,” Polis said. “It has not come up in that and we also screen about 15 to 20% of our tests, and we do tens of thousands of tests per day, for the indicators of the omicron variant. And none of those have come back with the omicron variant yet.”

Across the state of Colorado, just under 1,400 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, 95% of ICU beds are in use and many hospital facilities anticipate ICU shortages in the next week according to the Colorado Department of Health.

When Raddatz pushed Polis on hospitals in Colorado anticipating ICU shortages in the coming weeks and how they plan to handle that, Polis said the number of people who are unvaccinated and hospitalized with COVID-19 is far greater than the number of people who are vaccinated.

“So we just have slightly over 200 vaccinated Coloradans hospitalized … and then we have the 1,100 people that are unvaccinated,” Polis said, noting that those numbers show “the tremendous efficacy of the vaccine and keeping people out of the hospital.”

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